Congressional's Health Team, School Nurses Leah Boemerman and Lindsey Ticer and Public Health Expert, Dr. Tracy Krauss discuss their role during the pandemic.
Congressional’s Health Advisory Team has played a pivotal role during the pandemic. The team’s trio, school nurses Leah Boemerman and Lindsey Ticer and Tracy Krauss, Public Health - Infectious Disease Expert, Co-Chair of Congressional School’s Medical Advisory Council, and parent of Chloe, grade 7, have worked closely with school leadership to advise on best health practices and to manage COVID exposures to keep us all safe.
“During the planning phase, we were in communication on a daily basis,” says Lindsey. “There were so many questions. Leah and I would call Tracy a lot as well as the Fairfax County Health Department,” she said.
With so many agencies offering advice and setting policies, how did they manage to wade through the details to determine what was best for Congressional School? “We found it best to work with the smaller, local agencies,” said Lindsey. “Each area has different policies, so we worked with our local and state agencies which set policies that would directly affect us.”
Leah Boemerman (far left) and other faculty members
dressed as superheros to welcome back the
Infant and Toddlers on June 10, 2020.
Lindsey joined Congressional School in August, a few weeks before the whole campus reopened in the fall. Leah was on campus in the spring helping to prepare for the opening of the Infant and Toddler classes on June 1. “I was here working to set up for June 1st,” says Leah. “I remember a few days right before we started we made a quick video to show the students what it would look like coming to school every morning.”
“I definitely had some nerves coming back,” says Leah. “Being the school nurse, I definitely felt a lot of pressure but most of all I really wanted to keep the students and staff safe and healthy. It was a lot of research and talking with the Virginia Department of Health to make sure we had all the policies and procedures in place to keep everyone healthy and not spreading germs. Everything was so new, and most places were not open yet. We were working from scratch,” she said.
Lindsey was not nervous about the prospect of being at school. “I had no trepidation,” she said. “I’ve always worked around communicable diseases. That’s life for me. The important thing is to know how to do it properly.”
Tracy joined the team in July 2020 after Dr. Gordon, Congressional’s Head of School, reached out to her. “ Dr. Gordon called me last July and asked if I’d be interested in consulting with the school. He’d heard from another parent that I worked in Public Health,” says Tracy.
Since last July, Tracy has been a key player in the school’s efforts to manage during the pandemic, a responsibility that she juggles on top of her full time job as Officer in Charge at the Navy Branch Health Clinic, at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. “At times it’s been challenging,” she says. “Sometimes there’s overlap in the meetings, but I enjoy helping the school and appreciate the opportunity to have input.”
School in August 2020.
The nurses have had many conversations with parents over the school year, answering questions, gathering information about possible exposures, contact tracing, and discussing quarantine requirements, especially relating to travel. During peak COVID outbreaks, the school advised against travel, but for some families it was necessary. In those instances, the nurses would advise that the student would need to quarantine. “Most people were understanding about travel,” said Leah. “The only time it was really hard was when parents would get emotional because the kids could not see their grandparents,” she said. “It was a mix of emotions for parents. Some were frustrated because it's difficult working from home with their child for 14 days and for others it was fear.”
Many parents and faculty have reached out to Tracy with their own specific questions. “I’ve heard from several dozen people at the school,” she says. “Usually they ask my thoughts on something and what would be the safest way to make it happen.”
Lindsey is grateful that parents have been good about notifying the school about possible exposures and their plans to travel. “It is great that parents have reached out to us so much,” she says. “We wouldn’t have known about COVID exposures or their travel plans otherwise. People have been open and honest.”
Dr. Tracy Krauss, Public Health Expert, addresses the
community at Congressional's Head of School
Speaker Series event on January 28.
With the worst of the pandemic seemingly past, is there anything that keeps Congressional’s Health Advisory Team awake at night? “I worry that we will rush to try to find the “old normal” and end up sliding backwards,” says Tracy. “It’s been a long year!!”
Lindsey wonders what the future holds. “I wonder about the next 10 years”, she says. “What changes will happen because of all of this?”
Leah is just grateful for a successful year. “I am so thankful for how well Congressional School has done this past year. I'm just trusting Jesus and taking each day at a time,” she says.
As for silver linings, Lindsey thinks resiliency is the takeaway. “This has been a challenge for everyone,” she says. “I’m so proud of the kids. This is their childhood. They are so resilient and they have proven that.”
Leah’s silver lining is that “I have gotten to know the students more than I think I ever would. I have helped with Infant and Toddler drop off since June. I love seeing and walking the kids to their classrooms each morning. This has made it possible for me to know each student individually,” she says.
For Tracy, the silver lining is a sense of accomplishment. “With hard work we can make anything happen,” she says. “We’ve learned new ways of doing things we never thought possible!”
|Dr. Tracy Krauss
Public Health Expert
Director of Technology